Illinois Cities Fight For More Legal Protections Against Lawsuits

May 9, 2016

Illinois cities want legislation that would give broad legal protections to government employees like first responders. It's a response to an Illinois Supreme Court decision in January.

Credit Illinois Municipal League

Illinois law says police officers and firefighters cannot be sued if they're negligent while responding to an emergency. But government entities can be sued if there's intentional bad behavior by an employee.

Brad Cole of the Illinois Municipal League, says there was a long-held notion that government employees could serve the general public without fear of being sued. But he says the Illinois Supreme Court recently struck down that principle. Cole says he wants a law passed to bring it back.

"Absent making these changes, we believe we're going to create an environment where there's going to be a cottage industry of frivolous lawsuits aiming to capitalize on the suffering of others," he said.

Chris Hurley, an attorney with the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association said the Supreme Court’s decision was sound.

"They're simply clarifying the law to continue to allow public entities to be sued for willful, wanton conduct," he said.

The Supreme Court case began with a 9-1-1 call in Will County. Authorities responded to find a locked house. Rather than trying to break in, they left, and the woman inside died of a heart attack.​